San Francisco's perverse incentive to identify as transgender

San Francisco’s perverse incentive to identify as transgender

Imagine that a progressive American city creates a financial incentive for residents to “transition” from male to female or female to male.

That’s exactly what San Francisco just did with a program called Guaranteed Income for Transgender People, or GIFT.

It’s like using a fire hose to douse gasoline on a burning skyscraper. Talk about perverse incentives.

Does anyone want to bet that if this program grows, the number of poor people in San Francisco who self-identify as transgender will also increase?

Of course, San Francisco is already a laboratory for bad political ideas. But giving guaranteed income to low-income residents who self-identify as transgender is surely a next-level fool.

The GIFT pilot program “will provide 55 eligible residents with $1,200 per month for 18 months, as well as health care and financial coaching,” explains the Los Angeles Times.

This scheme merges bad fiscal policy with bad social policy. And the whole will be worse than the sum of its parts.

To see why, let’s look at the details.

First, note that this program does not provide the so-called Universal Basic Income. It does not target the entire population or even those most in need of money, but rather those with the highest status in the intersectional hierarchy. In this case, that means residents, including minors, living at the intersection of economic poverty and transgender identity.

The ad says:

The program will prioritize the enrollment of transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming and intersex (TGI) people who are also Black, Indigenous or of Color (BIPOC), homeless, living with disabilities and chronic illnesses, young and old, unilingual Spanish-speakers and those who are legally vulnerable such as TGI people who are undocumented, who engage in the survival sex trade or who are formerly incarcerated.

To prevent this $1,200 per month donation from hampering eligibility for other programs, San Francisco claims it is merely a research pilot program. This is probably a ruse, however, since the city treasurer claims that “there is no need to replicate the ‘does it work?’ pilot projects or research studies.

In fact, San Francisco seeks to focus “on qualitative research that can tell the human stories of people receiving guaranteed income,” as the fine print tells us. “Storytelling and narrative change are key to building public will and debunking false narratives about poverty and deserving.”

In other words, the goal of the GIFT pilot program is to get moving stories that can be used in an advertising campaign to expand the program. We can therefore assume that San Francisco will avoid the kind of rigorous scientific evaluation that might reveal program failures. And we can assume that it will expand.

Of course, we already have proof that this program will not reduce poverty in San Francisco. For more than a decade, the federal government has funded research on “guaranteed income” schemes. It supported randomized controlled trials in six states conducted from 1968 to 1980.

Guess what the US government discovered? Beneficiaries’ motivation to work declined, regardless of gender, marital status, or parenthood. In fact, for every dollar in transfer payments, revenue fell by 66 cents.

At this rate, it would take three dollars of taxpayers’ money to increase a beneficiary’s net income by one dollar. These results have been a disaster for fans of guaranteed minimum income, universal basic income, negative income tax or an unconditional cash transfer by any other name.

But such facts don’t stand in the way of Aria Sa’id, executive director of San Francisco’s legally recognized transgender district. After hearing about the GIFT program, the transgender activist wanted more.

“My dream,” Sa’id said, “is to take a fire truck with millions of dollars in cash and have a wind blower and say, ‘Go for it.'”

Luckily, most Americans have more common sense than showering the city streets with twenty-dollar bills. Over 90% of the public agrees that “able-bodied adults who receive money, food, housing, and medical assistance should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving these government benefits.”

This lack of public support is no doubt why national politicians do not push such “guaranteed income” programs with great zeal. San Francisco voters, however, are far to the left of the average American voter. So, politicians in this city respond to different incentives.

Nevertheless, the bad result of this policy is still easy to envisage.

Just consider: the number of people identifying as transgender, non-binary, etc. has exploded in recent years, especially among young people. This growth has been so alarming that it led physician and researcher Dr. Lisa Littman to suggest a new diagnosis in 2017 that she called “rapid onset gender dysphoria.”

This pandemic among young people has gotten much worse over the past five years. As a result, the UK’s National Health Service has been overwhelmed and recently opted to pause on cross-sex hormones and related surgeries on minors.

Anyone who studies the rise of gender ideology in schools, culture and social media is bound to suspect that we are dealing with a new social contagion, not the rare gender dysphoria of the previous century.

Gender transition is now, for many minors, a trend.

But it turns out that this trend, unlike goth or grunge, leads to the sterilization of cross-sex hormones and disfiguring surgery.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal

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